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Tolling Points

Truckers Against Trafficking Leads a Fight Against Modern Slavery

By: 
Mitchell Beer, President, Smarter Shift

It’s an area where front-line tolling agency staff can make a life-changing, life-saving difference, just by reading the signs.

Where agencies can join forces with the truckers who are among the most frequent users of their roads.

Where the roadmap for success is in place, with training programs that have already reached more than 1.2 million professional drivers across the United States.

Truckers Against Trafficking (TAT) has been leading the fight against human trafficking along the country’s highways since 2009. And IBTTA members are already beginning to help out, after the association hosted a webinar for the organization June 16 and raised more than $2,000 for the cause.

“In transportation, we say we’re in the people moving business,” IBTTA President Mark Compton, CEO of the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission, told participants. “Unfortunately, there’s a dark side of that business that we want to address today. The more you learn about it, the more it frightens you, and the more you realize how close it can be to you,” he said. “We believe we have a duty” to be a part of the solution.

“It’s going to be very important to have this dialogue about awareness and what we all can do to combat human trafficking,” agreed session moderator Paula Hammond, Senior Vice President and National Transportation Market Lead at WSP USA.

$150 billion in annual profits

“Human trafficking is a form of modern slavery that involves moving and recruiting persons using fraud, coercion, or threats in order to exploit, enslave, or abuse,” explained Pennsylvania Transportation Secretary Yassmin Gramian, P.E. “In addition to forced labor and sex trafficking, private and non-profit organizations list other types of human trafficking, such as forced marriage.”

The victims are often members of marginalized groups who may ultimately be recruited into pickpocketing, drug trafficking, or as child soldiers. One in four victims are children, 71% are women and girls, and the human trafficking trade generates $150 billion per year in profits, two-thirds of it from commercial sexual exploitation. An estimated 10% of donor organs have been trafficked.

“Anywhere there is transportation, there is the potential for human trafficking,” Gramian said. “This modern-day slavery affects every city, suburb, and rural area in the United States,” and the response extends to state driver’s license centers that see millions of people per year.

A ‘mobile army’

A 501(c)3 charity formed as part of the broader abolitionist movement, Truckers Against Trafficking engages in trafficking awareness training and coalition-building across all the industries and sectors that use America’s roads—including trucking, bus operators, dealerships, fossil fuels, and law enforcement. Its Harriet Tubman Award honors members of the trucking, bus and energy industries “whose actions helped to recover the exploited, improve the lives of victims or prevent human trafficking and/or sexual exploitation from taking place.”

During the IBTTA webinar, Executive Director and Co-Founder Kendis Paris described how TAT has set up a “mobile army,” relying on professional drivers to act as “the eyes and ears out on the road.” The organization’s training program has shown 1,206,596 drivers (and counting) how to be vigilant for the moments when they intersect with victims at truck stops and parking lots, rest areas, hotels and motels, bus terminals, or elsewhere.

In the last five years, according to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, 41% of the cases truckers have reported have involved minors,” Paris added. “That just goes to show you that these guys really are in the right place at the right time, and they’re willing to get involved.”

The TAT website includes testimonials that point to the high stakes for trafficking victims and the difference all of us can make by paying attention and taking action.

“Arian’s compassion and care following the advice of the TAT sticker on his truck resulted in safety and services for a 19-year-old woman who had just escaped from her would-be trafficker,” reads one citation.

“Quick action by Debo and Alan, two TAT-trained TravelCenters of America employees, resulted in the arrest of three for human trafficking and the recovery of 20 women being abused by a trafficking ring,” says another.

“Kevin made a call to law enforcement, ending 18 days of kidnapping, torture and trafficking for a 20-year-old Iowa woman and sent her two traffickers to jail for more than a combined 80-year sentence,” states a third.

See something? Say something! Click here to find out more about Truckers Against Trafficking.

Newsletter publish date: 
Tuesday, July 13, 2021 - 08:30

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